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MotoGP: at last - physics beats Marquez

Nigel Morris-Co...

This day had to come: Marc Marquez has, unusually, been defeated by the forces of nature. Holding a commanding lead at the US GP at the Circuit of the Americans in Austin, one of the most fundamental aspects of motor-racing was demonstrated and he fell off leaving the result of the race, and the Championship, to cause more shaking of heads than a room full of joyous fan-boys.

Long ago, when fledgeling kart racer James Yang Yong Cong / Morris-Cotterill borrowed one of my full race engines and put it and some super-sticky tyres on on his junior racing chassis, he came into the pits complaining that it wasn't taking a 90 degree corner properly. "That's because when you turn in, the kart is skipping across the track and it doesn't turn if the tyres aren't touching the tarmac," said mechanic Carson Alt, who "spannered" for some of the UK's leading karting talent - and James. "Oh, that's O.K., then. So long as I know," said James and off he went to work out how to get around the corner without lifting off the power - and without lifting off the track.

It's a lesson Marc Marquez should have had before the US Grand Prix. With a lead of several seconds from Valentino Rossi, who's career is resurging, Marquez didn't need to push but he's not mentally suited to riding at anything less than full chat - and sometimes beyond it. Marquez is a phenomenon. His bike control is extraordinary. His angle of lean defies physics - and then he spins up the back wheel and slides the bike into the perfect position so that when he stands it up, it launches out of corners like a pebble from slingshot. He practices going over the limit - both track limits as he has done at the end of qualifying at Laguna Seca when he straight-lined part of The Corkscrew to find out whether the caked mud on the inside of a corner was ridable (it was, for him) and the limits of physics (as he has done in the last dozen or so races where he has run around corners on his elbow and knee before levering the bike upright. Marquez had until today, the chance of equalling the longest run of victories for several decades - already on twelve, after three laps all he had to do was not fall off.

He fell off.

He fell off for the simple reason that he bkaked too hard into a corner where the bike was unweighted and under braking the back wheel was in the air when he leaned into the corner for his signature angle of attack. Alt's wisdom sprang to mind: "it doesn't turn if the tyres aren't touching the tarmac." It was a fast but simple accident: Marquez and the bike weren't obviously damaged. As the field streamed past, he got up, returned to the bike and with the help of marshals started to bump start it. But it didn't start. He got off, ran alongside the bike to help the marshals build up speed and jumped on side-saddle, again heavily bumping the number 93 Honda. It didn't start, it rolled to a halt - and then tragedy turned to farce as the bike tipped over, with Marquez tumbling over it to be left sitting on the floor next to it looking like a seated teddy bear. He sat still for a few moments: it would be nice to think he was enjoying the humour of the situation, laughing inside his helmet. It would be nice to think that but, probably, wrong. Just three days ago, media was using terms such as "Unbeaten kind of America," and getting even more excited. Later, Marquez would say that he made a mistake but he doesn't know what, that he was three and a half seconds ahead and had eased off to maintain that gap. But the cause is clear from the excellent High Definition super-slow motion camera work provided by the race series organisers.

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